It is becoming convincing that, the recent decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria to suspend the use of old naira notes by the 31st of January 2023 is spelling doom for the future of the nation.
The decision has not only been criticized but largely condemned by all stakeholders, considering its devastating effects to the nation’s economy and humanity by extension.
The experience in Zamfara is not only terrible, but it is a development that is capable of causing serious tension that may lead to state anarchy (God-forbid).
Currently, businesses are crashing in Zamfara and surprisingly people in the market are now beginning to disown the old naira note even at the levels of eateries and restaurants.
The Keke Napep operators, the Okada riders, people selling food stuffs, those at the provision stores as well as transport operators in the motor parks are no longer recognizing the old naira note as valid legal tender.
To add to the precision, however, the business environment in Zamfara has already become volatile and people are loosely becoming scared of their future beyond the 31st January 2023.
Majority of small scale business owners are now not collecting the old naira notes building the fear that they may get it difficult to get the money deposited in the banks as we moved toward the CBN deadline” Musa Garba a resident of Gusau stated.
Another father who has three of his children writing exams at the Fedeal University Gusau said, “two of my children lost their semester exams on Wednesday last week because the private transport operators refused to collect the old naira notes and that affects their ability to catch up with their early morning examination scheduled for 8:00am”.
BANKS AVAILABILITY VERSUS THE POPULATION.
It is curious to note that about eight out of the (14) local governments in Zamfara state do not have operational banks designated at the local government headquarters.
Local government councils like, Tsafe, Maradun, Zurmi, Birnin Magaji, Shinkafi, Maru, Bukkuyum and Gummi do not have operational banks. These local governments covered almost half of the populations of Zamfara state, which is put 5.72 million as at December 2023.
The Analysis has further shown that if by aggregation, a total of 2.8 million people are qualified to operate a single bank account in a recognized operational bank closed to 2/3 of these populations do not have a bank account.
Is this possible for this percentage which is about 1.5 million people to open a bank account within (90) days? If it is not possible, then who is to be blamed? Government in real sense because you cannot expect someone to use what is not available.
If these people who are not provided with the right platforms to open bank accounts are denied access to validity of their hard-earned money, is this just? The answer is capital No!!!.
THE RURALISM AND NORTHERN PHENOMENA
It is an open argument that large bulk of our population are rural in nature. Besides living in the rural areas, the majority of them operate in some local business empire that do required banks or bank accounts.
Most of them have some small-scale businesses that required a capital support of N50,000 up to N500,000 and the environment under which they operate is mostly not favorable for bank or internet operations.
The business setting in most of these villages and hamlets where our local people operate is an environment that knows nothing like internet or e-banking system. What people in these types of community settings required is simply the business environment where they can earn some proceeds to immediately feed the family.
When government pushed these people into accepting what is next to impossible in their comprehension, there is tendency of shifting closer to anarchy.
What is expected of the Central Bank of Nigeria is to allow for the business environment to operate based on “business as usual” and create the facilities required to enhance the chances of gradual digital migration to ensure inclusion. Improve the internet, access to power, security, and then basic operational facilities that would guaranty digital inclusiveness.
CORRUPTION IN THE BANKS AND USE OF BLACK MARKET AGENTS BY SOME BANK OFFICIALS IN ZAMFARA
There are multiple evidences that, officials of most of the banks operating in Zamfara take advantage of the curious situation and desperate tendencies of the customers to get access to the new naira notes to be enforcing unauthorized levy on the customers.
It was obvious that, some bank officials in Zamfara had engages the services of illegal agents to be collecting old naira notes from customers for swapping with the new notes with a view to getting commission.
Sani Bala a bank customer in Zamfara once told this medium that “banks in Zamfara are seapping old naira notes of N20,000 for N18,000 and N1M for N870,000 and people are still accepting levy enforced on them without recourse to the illegality contained.
Masses are suffering on long queue to get the new naira notes, while some are dwelling more on the black market option to get the new currency without any difficulties.
THE SUPERIOR ARGUMENTS
Ahmad Abubakar Maradun is an analyst, and he argued during one of our interactive sessions we had with him that, the arguments by the CBN Governor is weak; hence he did not take into consideration the peculiar nature of Nigeria as a nation.
He opined that, Mr. Emifele is trying to move Nigeria toward digital inclusiveness, forgetting the fact that the environment is not digitally ready.
He observed that, even the most developed countries that succeeded in digital/cashless economy, they supervised the implementation of their reformed policies gradually not haphazardly.
He opined that most of these countries allow the use of the new and old naira notes inter-changeably taking into serious consideration that, the old notes that are deposited in banks are tactically withdrawn from circulations and creating atmosphere for continuous injection of the new notes into the economy.
He predicted that, the new policy which stipulated 31st December 2023 as deadline for the use of the old naira notes will spark tension and cause serious confusion in the country.
As for Samaila Mudi, he said the President is strongly misguided by some of the decisions he took on critical national issues. He pointed that it will be next to impossible for the CBN and indeed the Federal Government to insist that, the deadline is not re-considerable.
In his opinion, ‘I don’t think Nigerian government can be able to absorb the shock of what the masses would do if the tension continues because there is no option to the hunger.
Kamaludeen Isamail a political analyst said North-West and indeed greater part of Zamfara will be worst affected since the majority of the villages invaded by the armed bandits do not have access to good telecommunication network and the basis for the digital banking system for these people is not guaranteed.
In reference to the opinion of Gudaje Kazaure he insisted that the President need to play with caution; hence the policy according to him is bent on triggering the anger of the people on him, especially at a time when he has few months to the expuration of his tenure.
He also suggested that the President need to listen to those who love him naturally and stop accepting information that is per closer to the truth, insisting that he is still on his earlier argument that the new currency were painted by the Emifele led CBN instead of printed.
“I love President Muhammadu Buhari more than the way his son Yusuf loves him. My love for President Muhammadu Buhari is typically natural but believe me I don’t want the steps he is taking because if care is not exercised after his tenure the President may find it difficult to even come out to observe Jumuat prayers in congregation God forbid”.
EXTENSION OF TIME WHAT MAY LIKELY GOING TO HAPPENED
The CBN Governor after meeting President Buhari in Daura announced the extension of time for the money swap to 10th of February 2023.
It was also announced that the CBM released a statistics indicating that as a result of the policy consistency about N1.9 trillion had been deposited by customers in their respective bank accounts living behind about N1.8 billion naira in circulation.